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Newman Lofts developer asks city to lift restrictions

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Posted at 5:02 AM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 05:02:17-04

LANSING, Mich. — There were a few eyebrows raised when a developer agreed to reserve some lofts in downtown East Lansing-specifically for tenants ages 55 and older.

Now, that same developer is asking the city to lift the restriction or go to court. Developer Harbor Bay Real Estate is asking the City Council to lift an age restriction at Newman Lofts.

Right now, the units are reserved for residents in a certain age range, but the developers say the requirement during a pandemic is hurting their business.

Newman Lofts opened last fall. Yet, only 27% of the 91 units are occupied. The company blames East Lansing’s reputation.

They sent a letter to the City Council saying the national attention over the Harper’s outbreak and the growing number of COVID-19 cases is making the age restriction financially unsustainable and it risks the health of residents.

City Councilwoman Lisa Babcock says she’s hurt by this reasoning.

“It’s offensive for them to think that their losses can be solely on the pandemic and they are trying to lay the cause of the pandemic at the feet of this community,” said Babcock.

In order to get the development approved, Harbor Bay agreed to include age-restricted housing. Babcock wants them to stick to their agreement.

“You are going to have to stick it out longer at best. You made a commitment to the community, and in exchange for that you got to build a prime piece of real estate. We held our end of the bargain and now it is theirs,” she said.

In response, Harbor Bay is threatening to pursue legal action if there’s not a “good-faith effort” to lift the restriction so it can convert the lofts into market-rate apartments.

Babcock says this doesn’t scare the City Council. In fact, she further believes that the 55-plus age requirement at Newman Lofts could be a success.

“There is a trend too for baby boomers to move back to their college town. And this is a great community to be a part of,” she added.

The Council did not vote on the change this week. Fox 47 will let you know if they do.

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